Dragons, dire wolves, and the supernatural may have become the standard for television, but this fall, FOX brings a truly unusual idea to its lineup: ‘Pitch,’ a drama about the first woman to play Major League Baseball this century. Starring Kylie Bunbury as Ginny Baker, it premieres September 22nd, and will run for at least 14 episodes. This may be fiction, but ever wondered why there hasn’t been a woman in the MLB in over a hundred years?

Jackie Mitchell

Spoiler alert: women have been in the MLB before.

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In fact, there has been a long line of women playing organized baseball, with all-women teams competing against each other recorded as early as the 1860’s. There were even women competing with and against men as of 1898, which was when Lizzie Armstrong pitched against the Allentown Peanuts for the minor league team the Reading Coal Heavers.

But that all changed on April 2, 1931. There was a 17-year-old southpaw named Jackie Mitchell who struck out two of the greatest baseball players in history, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

This wasn’t just in the course of her career, but in the same game. One right after the other, she struck out the Hall of Famers, the baseball leaving her hand like a shooting star, a glittering, blinding object blazing a promising future for anyone with that much talent.

A not-so-dream deferred

Less than two days after striking out Gehrig and Ruth, the baseball commissioner declared all women were fired from the MLB, including Jackie, who weeks before earned a professional baseball contract.

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But this was not the end of Mitchell’s career. Sure, while the major leagues might have been intensely white, male, and able-bodied, that didn't apply to all baseball of the era. In an era of racism, bigotry, and misogyny, roaming baseball teams were a major fixture for people who did not “fit” the standard look of a baseball player. One of the most well-loved—and eccentric—teams was known as the House of David, and spawned several offshoots, like the Colored House of David.

They all played with shoulder length hair, and full beards. All of them, including Jackie Mitchell, who signed on to their team in 1933 when she was just 19. Luckily, wigs and costumes are not a new invention, and Mitchell didn’t have to grow a genuine beard. It may have been unconventional, but she still got to do what she loved: play baseball.

#YesAllWomen

Mitchell’s legacy is alive and well in girls around the world finding enjoyment in baseball, girls who can play just as well as the boys, and sometimes even better.

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Just look at Mo’Ne Davis, the now 15-year-old girl who pitched a shut-out at the Little League World Series back in 2014. Without Mitchell and people like her, FOX’s newest drama would only be just that—a fictional story, with little hope of ever coming true.

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